Fictional Inspiration

A brief look into how fictional characters influence morals and values, sometimes more than friends and family.

by Toronto Rob

Reannah Sanglay, Writer

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Whether we realize it or not, we are surrounded by influences that determine our morals, values, and characteristics. But just how much transformation do we go through as a result of these influences, and do these influences extend further than the basic circle of friends and family? 

 

According to Sigmund Freud, children are bound to take a parent’s characteristics as they develop and lock into characteristics of their own. Freud described this phenomenon as the inevitable process of “identification,” a time where children subconsciously take in characteristics of a single parent, often one of the same sex. The characteristics that we take in become our values and morals, and as we mature, our personalities and guidelines. A similar phenomenon occurs as we introduce friendships and new circles into the equation, though less intense, and less permanent. But beyond our friends and family, is it possible that there are other influences around us that affect us in just the same way?

 

When I binge-watched Gossip Girl over the summer, I felt drawn into Blair Waldorf. Blair Waldorf, a character that suffered many fatal flaws—from greed to deceptiveness to corruption, who began as an antagonist and ended up a protagonist—came to inspire me. Not for her lack of regard for humanity, but for the redeeming qualities she later showed to possess. She was career-driven, powerful, and outspoken. She inspired me, and it was through her that I came to realize the effect she had on my subconsciousness. A shy, quiet girl, introverted and reserved, taken through the coming-of-age story of a powerful, outspoken woman achieving her greatest dreams and aspirations, all in six seasons. She inspired me, and by the time I finished the series, I felt confidence—as if I were living my life through hers—and I felt more empowered than ever.

 

In that same way, when I watched the Vampire Diaries, I found myself drawn into Elena Gilbert. She was compassionate, empathetic. Elena Gilbert is your fundamental protagonist: heart over mind, mind over matter. She was morally righteous, genuinely sincere, always fighting for a cause. But she was a humanitarian; she believed too much in the will of the people—their potential and their ability to change—and too many times, this would hurt her. At some point during the series, I found myself reflecting that. I gave second chances—and third, and fourth, and fifth—and I felt defeated. It wasn’t until I found myself wondering why I even let these people back into my life to begin with when I started to notice my tendency of mirroring the characters that I felt drawn to in such an intimate, personal manner. 

 

I mirror fictional characters, and I emulate their lives on to my own. I mirror them as if I am learning from them, and as if I am growing through them.

 

Kairen Ancog, a senior in New Milford High School, reports a similar experience with this phenomenon. “I read The Hunger Games series for the first time over the summer. I’m on the last book right now. I was most drawn in by Katniss Everdeen, who in two words, is family-oriented, and would do anything to protect the people that she loves. She’s the oldest in her family such as I am, so I can relate to her in that way. Anyway, I wasn’t always so close to my little sister before, but after all Katniss went through to save hers, it just made me appreciate mine so much more, and since then, we’ve been the closest we’ve ever been. If there comes a time where I have to sacrifice my life, or anything, for my little sister, I don’t think I would hesitate.”

 

Ancog also reports a similar experience with the character Santiago from The Alchemist. “Santiago went through many hardships and tribulations in life, and I can relate to that in a personal manner. I won’t get into it, but all Santiago wanted to do was travel around and experience the world in his eyes. He became a shepherd. Not that I’ll become a shepherd, but he made me realize that my time here is short and that I want to do just the same. After reading that novel, my appreciation and awareness to the things around me have been at an all-time high. I never longed for adventure like that. Not until Santiago.”

 

Our influences go beyond the basic friends and family, whether we realize it, or not. I mirror fictional characters, and learn from them, sometimes emulating their lives into my own. When you look into the mirror, what fictional characters are staring back?